NASA’s ‘Hid­den Fig­ures’ in line for a top award

US sen­a­tors seek­ing to recog­nise four African-Amer­i­can women for their key roles

All About Space - - Launch Pad -

Four bril­liant African-Amer­i­can women who played a key role in the Space Race of the 1960s are on course for the USA's high­est civil­ian award. The ‘Hid­den Fig­ures’ – so-called be­cause of a 2016 bi­o­graph­i­cal drama movie which high­lighted their roles – could re­ceive Con­gres­sional Gold Medals. It would suitably hon­our the ef­forts of Kather­ine John­son, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jack­son and Chris­tine Dar­den more than half-a-cen­tury later.

The pro­posal has been put for­ward by Sen­a­tors Chris Coons, Lisa Murkowski, Ka­mala Har­ris and 44 col­leagues as the ‘The Hid­den Fig­ures Con­gres­sional Gold Medal Act’. “Each of th­ese women played an im­por­tant role at NASA dur­ing the space race, but for many years their ac­com­plish­ments re­mained hid­den,” said Se­na­tor

Chris Coons in a state­ment. “This bill will help recog­nise th­ese ex­tra­or­di­nary women and bring their ac­com­plish­ments into the light so they can serve as an in­spi­ra­tion to younger gen­er­a­tions of women in sci­ence, par­tic­u­larly those of colour.”

John­son's cal­cu­la­tions of or­bital me­chan­ics at NASA en­sured the suc­cess of hu­man space­flight, in­clud­ing that of the first Amer­i­can in space, Alan Shep­ard, in 1961, and the first Amer­i­can in or­bit, John Glenn, a year later. Her cal­cu­la­tions paved the way for the Space Shut­tle pro­gram, and she was awarded the Pres­i­den­tial Medal of Free­dom by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in 2015.

Vaughan be­came the first AfricanAmer­i­can su­per­vi­sor at the Na­tional Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee for Aero­nau­tics (NACA) where she led the West

Area Com­put­ing unit. Jack­son was the first African-Amer­i­can fe­male en­gi­neer at NASA while Dar­den, who spent most of her 40-year ca­reer in aero­dy­nam­ics at NASA, was the first African-Amer­i­can women at the Lan­g­ley Re­search Cen­ter to be pro­moted to the toprank­ing Se­nior Ex­ec­u­tive Ser­vice.

Kather­ine John­son was one of three black NASA math­e­ma­ti­cians high­lighted in the 2016 filmHid­den Fig­ures

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